Weight loss and management is a topic of health that most people have to consider at some point in their lives. What can we do to burn fat and lose weight? What should we be eating to attain optimal health? What should we be avoiding? And most importantly, how do we make manageable changes that can be maintained long-term?
Dr. Lori Shemek is a well-known pioneer in low-level inflammation and the ways in which it is responsible for most illness, disease, weight gain, and rapid aging. As a Nutrition and Weight Loss expert and a best-selling author (How to Fight FATflammation! and Fire-UP Your Fat Burn!), Dr. Lori specializes in weight loss resistance. She helps her patients to identify foods that cause weight gain, kick their sugar addictions, and shift into eating the exact foods that burn fat. Twice recognized by Huffington Post as one of the Top 16 Health and Fitness Experts, Dr. Lori has enjoyed the company of Dr. Oz and David Zinczenko, author of Eat This, Not That. Together with Health Coach Omar Cumberbatch, Dr. Lori produces the popular podcast, This Podcast Burns Fat!, and it is here that they enjoyed a thought-provoking discussion with Dr. Jim Bentz.
Dr. Bentz is the top Practitioner and Trainer for Neurological Integration System (NIS) in the United States, teaching healthcare practitioners the principles of Functional Neurology. Dr. Bentz has utilized NIS as his primary modality since 1997 as it’s a system that incorporates ancient eastern medicine practices with current neuroscience and promotes self-healing through the detection and correction of signaling disruption in the nervous system.
Face the Current is excited to share the discussion between Dr. Lori, Omar, and Dr. Bentz and all of its exciting applications to fat burning, weight loss, and the attainment of the healthiest versions of ourselves.
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Omar Cumberbatch: What led you to pursue a career in healthcare?
Jim Bentz: I was really blessed that I grew up in a family that was pretty health conscious. My dad was a dentist, but he was what they would probably call a biologic dentist today. He was one of the earlier doctors that was against using amalgams (mercury compounds) in people’s mouths.
My mom was also very health conscious. We were not given pop or soda and we didn’t get much in the way of sugar. One of our jobs as kids was to grind up organic whole wheat so my mom could make bread from it. We felt kind of deprived because we didn’t get to have sugar and soda, but we also didn’t know any different. My mom was very much into cooking whole foods. When I was 18, my dad gave me Weston Price’s book, Nutrition and Physical Degeneration and it was an eye-opener for me. So, I was always interested in health and healthcare.
Lori Shemek: How do you implement your healthcare—your approach to health—and wellness?
JB: I specialize in two kinds of broad areas. The first would be the area of functional neurology. I’ve been using a system of healthcare in my office since 1997 called Neurological Integration System which was developed by an osteopath named Allan Phillips in New Zealand, and it’s really a system of determining where the signal between the brain and the body is breaking down, and then restoring that through light touch. It’s a brilliant system and it is the cornerstone of what I do. I’ve also studied functional medicine for close to thirty years. I studied with Jeff Bland from the IMF (Institute for Functional Medicine) for quite a while. Jeff wrote a brilliant book a couple of years ago called The Disease Delusion in which he’s basically saying that information is the root of all disease.
So, those two things together—getting people’s bodies functioning normally through the nervous system and then implementing lifestyle changes—are helping people make changes so that they can maintain their health. It is a real holistic approach.
LS: What you’re doing is redirecting the brain, correct?
JB: Yes, that’s correct. The nervous system is the master control system for the body and even hormones are controlled neurologically through the hypothalamus, so you basically have two fundamental signaling systems in the body. You have the electrical system, which is like the signals from the brain to the nerves. You also have chemical messengers in the body—things like hormones and neuro-transmitters—that keep the body in a homeostatic balance. If you can get all of that to function optimally, it gives people a better chance to be healthy.
LS: And that includes weight management.
JB: Oh, by all means. I don’t separate health and weight; I think they’re very much intertwined.
I don’t think you can be obese and be healthy—I just haven’t seen it. To me, it’s just a part of the overall picture of health to help people get their weight back under control. Many people will come to see me and they think that weight loss is their goal, but really they want to be healthy because they don’t feel good, they don’t have any energy, they’re struggling, and they’re dealing with a lot of shame and other really harmful emotions.
LS: That’s a really good point because we’re trying to create balance in the body, right? If all of these neurotransmitters and hormones are out of balance, then the person’s mental wellbeing is out of balance including weight and inflammation.
JB: One of the things that we do when testing a new patient is BIA (Bioelectrical Impedance Analysis) testing. We also use RJL Systems which is kind of the gold standard in the analysis of body composition. We also check heart rate variability which I find is a great tool for evaluating the autonomic function in the body. We also use a test called a Methoxy test that tests for a substance in the urine called malondialdehyde. This comes from peroxidation of the cell membrane, so this test is actually a measure of how much inflammation there is at the cellular level. It is so common to see high levels of inflammation at the cellular level and we know that that will translate into negative health effects for people.
OC: What is your approach to someone who comes into your office and says that they want to lose weight? Do you have a specific way to tackle that issue?
JB: Yes, we do. The first thing we do is try to get their nervous system as balanced as we can. As Lori was saying earlier, we optimize hormonal function and metabolic function because organ function is regulated through direct nerve input and through neurotransmitters. All that feedback is then going right back up to the brain, especially to the hypothalamus. This is the set point for weight management and that’s what regulates our whole hormonal system; it’s what regulates our sleep, appetite, thirst, heart rate, and blood pressure. All those autonomic functions come through the hypothalamus so we try to optimize it as much as we can. From there, it’s more of a process of subtracting things from people instead of adding. The first thing we do is we have patients stop snacking.
LS: Oh, that’s fantastic; that really is! That’s really the magic bullet for most people.
JB: We try to educate people about how the body really works. If you look at human evolution, we were hunter-gatherers for most of our evolutionary history. It’s only in the last 100 years or so that we’ve really had food security.
LS: That’s a good term: food security. It really is true that we have 24/7 access to it.
JB: Yes, we have access to food 24/7 and our bodies really aren’t designed for that; we were designed to go through periods of feast and famine. That’s how we evolved and the metabolic mechanisms that drive that are still intact in our bodies and we really override those when we have access to food and are eating 24/7.
OC: That’s one of the biggest things that we work on with our clients—getting over that snacking. What are some tips on how to do it?
JB: I think a lot of it is habitual and we just tell them, “Look, just try it. Just try it for a few weeks and see how it goes.” A lot of people begin to realize they’re not even aware that they’re snacking a lot of the time—it’s almost like unconscious eating. We have a health coach in our office that stays in contact with our patients and checks in on them. We definitely want to eliminate sodas and juices and all sources of sugar that people are using on a daily basis.
If we can get that and the snacking down, our next goal is to get our patients what we call “fat adapted”. We have found that the metabolism of most people is stuck in a sugar burning mode, accounting for their need to constantly eat it. They are not able to access their body fat stores. In terms of fuel sources, our bodies use fat and sugar, and our metabolisms will adapt over time to the food(s) that we eat. So, if we’re largely eating carbs and sugar, that’s what our metabolism will shift to. Because of this, not only will people gain fat, they won’t have the ability to burn it. The cycle of craving snacks will continue because their bodies crave glucose.
LS: How do you feel about ketones being used as fuel by the brain?
JB: As an example of this, my daughter was struggling for a while with some weight problems. I asked what she was eating, and she said she’d have a bowl of cereal for breakfast. I introduced her to bulletproof coffee which is coffee with MCT oil (medium-chain-triglyceride oil such as coconut oil) in it. She was amazed! She said her brain worked better and she was more clear-headed. I told her that’s the result of her brain using ketones.
LS: People might say, “Well, if the brain was meant to use ketones, it would not favor glucose.” What do you say about that?
JB: Oh, I don’t agree with that. I think we’re kind of like flex fuel vehicles; we have the mechanism to use either. It’s interesting that the original use for ketosis was to control epileptic seizures. This tells us that the ketones actually have a very healing effect on the brain. For brain health, it’s so important that we become fat adapted.
LS: We know that all the research is pointing to that anyway. For example, Alzheimer’s is looking like a type 3 diabetes. On the heels of that, how do you treat those that come into your office with type 2 diabetes?
JB: Pretty much the same way. I’m a big fan of what I would classify as ancient healing strategies, and that includes fasting. We do a lot of fasting with our patients, beginning with intermittent fasting. We work toward increasing the fasting, even up to forty hours. I randomly do that myself every few weeks to feel better. I also do a couple five-day water fasts every year as well.
We put our patients on a two-month program to get them started. It’s about gradual changes because people don’t like change, so we go step-by-step to get them off snacks, off breakfast, and into intermittent fasting. We’ve found that it’s really important to actually teach patients how to monitor their glucose and ketones. Once they start seeing that direct feedback and they see that their glucose is going down and their ketones are going up, it becomes a real motivator for them to keep going. We use the Keto-Mojo glucose and ketone meter to do that. To me, it’s the most accurate one out there and it’s very easy to use, so we recommend that for all our patients. We train them to use the meter and we encourage them to experiment with their diet: “Go ahead and eat more carbs one day and see what happens.”
LS: That’s an important point because so many people react differently to certain foods. There is a lot of research showing that some people may get a spike in blood sugar with specific foods that other people don’t experience.
JB: Exactly.There’s no one-size-fits -all. We’re also big on diet variation; we don’t recommend eating the same things every day.
OC: You have mentioned you’ve had forty-hour fasts which are definitely longer than most people are used to. Do you drink black coffee or anything to help you suppress your appetite during that period, and do you recommend that to people to help them along a little bit?
JB: People can do coffee. We have patients check to see if it spikes their glucose and if it doesn’t, it’s fine.
When we do water fasts, some patients stick to just water, but if they really need to, they’ll throw a little bone broth in there. For many people, success is about staying really well hydrated and that means adding some sea salt into their water, too. When you don’t have the electrolytes, you just start feeling bad.
LS: What is your take on fruit? I have seen so many of my clients addicted to fruit and eating an excess amount. Fructose is metabolized in the liver and will eventually cause fatty liver disease, so I definitely do not recommend a lot of fruit. I recommend low sugar fruits, one serving per day at the most.
JB: Yes, berries are the best bet. A lot of these fruits, especially the hybrid apples and many of the oranges now, have been engineered. The sugar content in them is four or five times what it used to be in more of the heirloom varieties. Fruit was probably a part of our diet long ago, but it was only available seasonally. Now we’ve got that availability 24/7. So, yes, we try to keep patients off fruit, especially bananas, mangoes, pineapple, etc. If you want to have something like that as a treat once in a while, I don’t have a problem with that.
LS: And the body can hopefully handle it, because it’s more insulin sensitive; it knows what to do with it.
OC: Dr. Bentz, your system’s a Neurological Integration System (RNI). How does it differ from other modalities, and how does it help in actually making people manage their weight better?
JB: I’ve studied some other functional neurology systems and they’re more concentrated on patients exercising. RNI is not really an intervention—you’re just helping the brain understand where the signaling is breaking down, and then through a gentle sensory input to the brain, the brain actually makes the connection for you and re-connects everything. The first time I saw this done, I thought, “How can this be? You can just do a little tap on somebody’s head and make them better?”
I had chronic episodic sciatica and sacroiliac pain to the point where chiropractic adjustments were actually making it worse. When I had this method done to me and I got up off the table, the pain was almost completely gone. The critical distinction is that the brain is making the corrections related to pain. We use a muscle test in a kinesiology-based system. Properly done, it is actually a neurological test and has nothing to do with strength—you’re just getting feedback from the brain through the muscles. We then look for points that are weakening the person when we touch them, and we know that means there’s a signaling breakdown, between the brain and the liver, for example. (Or the brain and a particular joint in the body!) By contacting those points and gently doing a little sensory stimulation, the brain will actually reconnect those points. It’s really quite fascinating! I’ve studied a lot of different things in the chiropractic world in my thirty-five years of practice, and this is by far the most effective thing that I’ve ever come across. (It’s technically not even chiropractic because we’re not doing any manipulations. That’s the beauty of it also—it’s 100% safe. You can’t hurt anybody!)
OC: What neurological pathways are disconnected in the world of weight?
JB: We see a lot of hormonal disruption. We’ll see a lot of hypothalamic disfunction and breakdown where the hypothalamus either isn’t getting feedback from the body or it’s not able to connect down through that HPA (hypothalamic pituitary access). There’s a breakdown in signaling there and correcting that is the key to helping people with weight loss. You need to get full hypothalamic function back.
LS: Does that include achieving better gut health?
JB: Yes, it does. We know for sure there’s a direct feedback from the microbiome via the vagus nerve back to the brain, so we look a lot at gut health. Again, it’s a function of things like proper pancreatic enzyme function and proper liver function, and those are all autonomically controlled and neurologically controlled. There is direct nerve input through the sympathetics and then also through the para-sympathetics—the vagus nerve—so if we can get those systems optimally functioning, people do much better with their gut. Now that being said, we do some “jumped up” things to help the microbiome, but I’m a big believer that we have this innate intelligence in our body. The body’s not dumb; it knows what to do if you can just get the things that are hindering out of the way.
LS: That’s really true. The body wants to do well, it just needs to have the resources to do it. We know that healthy bacteria love to munch on fiber and it’s very good for our gut. Polyphenols help repair the damage that’s been done by inflammation throughout the body. So, what is your take on fiber in the diet, and how do you feel about the carnivore diet on the extreme opposite end?
JB: No doubt fiber is very important—it’s a prebiotic and it’s what nurtures the good bacteria, so it’s very important. I’m very skeptical of the carnivore diet because I don’t think doing any one thing over a long period of time can be good. Also, elevated protein use activates a metabolic pathway called mTOR in the body that can actually drive cancer. People say they’re getting great results with it, but I don’t think it’s sustainable over the long run. I really think we need a wide variety of whole foods in our diet.
That’s really one of our big things: getting people away from processed foods. I don’t know if you’re familiar with Michael Pollan’s book, Food Rules, but it’s a brilliant book and we give copies to our patients. It’s a short book but it has clear rules like, “If your grandmother couldn’t understand what’s in the ingredient list, maybe you shouldn’t eat it.” Another one is, “If it’s handed to you through your car window, it’s probably not real food.”
LS: If you’re a bit skeptical about the carnivore diet, what about the ketogenic diet? How do you feel about that?
JB: I think the ketogenic diet is good, but again, it’s not something that I would recommend for people long-term. I go in and out of ketosis seasonally.
We should really be trying to emulate more of how our ancestors lived. I’m going to keep going back to the evolutionary biology idea, but we’ve gotten way too comfortable. We live in these climate-controlled environments where the temperature doesn’t deviate that much. We live indoors much more than we used to, and we spend a lot of time on screens which is a fairly recent thing that we don’t yet know the effects of on our brains… Jack Kruse is a neurosurgeon in New Orleans and he talks a lot about the importance of light in our lives and getting our circadian rhythm back on track. We can achieve that by getting early morning light.
OC: How so? When you say seasonally, can you give us an explanation of how you would navigate that?
JB: In the spring and summer I tend to go more into ketosis. Going back to evolutionary biology, food was usually abundant in the summer and spring for most people. Because of this, they would actually put on more weight/body fat in anticipation of food not being so available in the winter and fall. The evidence, however, doesn’t show that staying in ketosis long-term is really good for us.
If you follow Dr. Pompa at all, he talks about having feast days once in a while where you eat more carbs or eat more protein. Have that baked potato; load up on food! You just don’t want to do that every day, and again, this all goes back to diet variation.
There’s a great documentary on Netflix called The Science of Fasting, and I recommend it to everybody because it talks about therapeutic fasting. Even in the twenties and thirties, hospitals existed where people would undergo supervised fasting. The health results were astounding, especially—and this is really interesting to me—in the area of mental health. People with psychoses had great results and about fifty percent of those people maintained their results after they left the hospital and returned to their normal diet.
LS: Do you have any tips for staying healthy in the long-run?
JB: We should really be trying to emulate more of how our ancestors lived. I’m going to keep going back to the evolutionary biology idea, but we’ve gotten way too comfortable. We live in these climate-controlled environments where the temperature doesn’t deviate that much. We live indoors much more than we used to, and we spend a lot of time on screens which is a fairly recent thing that we don’t yet know the effects of on our brains. We just tell people, “Get outside and get some sunlight!” I live in the North West and it’s often cloudier, but just getting out in natural light for twenty minutes a day is beneficial. Also, just start moving more, even if it’s a short walk. Try to also stay with those light-dark cycles and start dimming your lights down at night when it gets dark instead of having your lights on full blast. Do things that push your body a little bit, like vary the temperature that you’re in, get outside, and maybe don’t wear as warm of a coat. Expose yourself to more cold or to more heat in the summertime. We’re really addicted to comfort and I think it’s hurting us.
And also, just eat real food. We always tell patients, “If it comes out of a can or a box, you might want to think twice.”
LS: That means soybean oil and sugar! The recent research that just came out on soybean oil shows it’s causing obesity and neurological damage.
JB: What’s shocking to me is even a lot of the so-called healthy salad dressings contain canola and soybean oil.
LS: And a lot of people think that those are healthy. That’s the sad part.
JB: It is sad. We do teach our patients to read labels and I think these industrially processed oils are one of the biggest threats to our health. We also encourage people to cook for themselves without using things out of a box or can because it’s all engineered food. It’s going back to a simpler, more primal lifestyle any way we can.
I’m also lucky where I live because I’ve got a fairly private area. I like to get outside very early in the morning and do a little bit of naked exercise. I get light on my entire body that way. Jack Kruse is a neurosurgeon in New Orleans and he talks a lot about the importance of light in our lives and getting our circadian rhythm back on track. We can achieve that by getting early morning light.
LS: Yes, one of the first things I recommend to my clients is to drink a glass of water as soon as they wake up and then get some light exposure.
JB: These are basic things that you would think would be second nature, but they’re not. They’re powerful. Just because it’s simple doesn’t mean that it’s not powerful! I think we’ve gotten too addicted to very complex interventions. We think we have to do these very complex things to be healthy, but I’m more of a believer in simple, elegant, and minimalistic approaches.
LS: I love that—that’s the way it should be; life should not be complicated.
JB: And it should be fun! You’ve got to have some fun; you can’t take any of it too seriously.
OC: How can we keep in touch with the things that you’re doing?
JB: My practice website is www.fidalgoislandhealthcenter.com. I’ve also written blogs about a lot of the topics we discussed. If any practitioners are interested in knowing more about the Neurological Integration System, I am the leading trainer in the United States for this work so I teach the basic seminars in this. Check out www.nisusaseminars.com to find information about our seminar program. It is only available for licensed healthcare practitioners, but there’s a practitioner directory if anyone wants to find someone near them who does that work.